Symbol of the Month – The Boat

The first Symbol of the Month of 2020 – a little later than I planned but more to come….

Close-up of boat, Caig monument Brompton Cemetery
Side view of boat

There are many sailing vessels in cemeteries. Ships, boats and the occasional yacht, becalmed on headstones or monuments forever sailing on a marble or granite sea.  Often they reveal the incumbent’s former occupation as on this fine example on the grave of Captain Edward Parry Nisbet in Brompton Cemetery.  Note the cross formed by the mast which is one of the central symbols of Christianity. There’s also the magnificent and exuberant monument to Captain Wimble  and his indomitable wife on the appropriately named Ship Path in West Norwood Cemetery.

But this little boat tied up and apparently moored at the base of a large cross is symbolic of a journey that has reached its final destination.

Side Side view of boatview of boat showing detail as it’s been carved to resemble a wooden boat.

The monument is located within Brompton Cemetery and is a representation of the journey of life.  This is a small sculpture of a rowing boat that has been carved to resemble a wooden one and there are seats inside but no oars. It could be interpreted as coming to the end of your life or journey and entering another life of eternity symbolised by the cross.  In other words, the crossing to the ‘other world’ as Douglas Keister calls it.   Also as www.stoneletters says:

‘…it’s a symbol of our last journey, it embodies the voyage of life, of coming full circle and taking us back to the waters of our beginning.’

However a boat can also be seen as an emblem of safety and refuge as it carries us over life’s often choppy seas and takes us home.  In this context, another boat that springs to mind is Noah’s Ark.  It protected and saved all that were on it and was a metaphor for the church as it weathered the storm against all odds.  However, Keister also suggests that the shape of a boat can resemble that of a cradle or a womb which would again emphasise shelter and protection. It holds us secure above the chaos of life.

Boats and death are a central theme in many other religions and cultures in that they carry the souls of the dead to eternity.  For example, King Arthur was transported by boat on death and, most famously, the Vikings people also used funerary boats. This was granted to important people of the tribe as they and their possessions would be sent out across the water in one after it had been set ablaze.  A symbolic mimicking of the soul’s journey to Valhalla.  Also in Greek mythology, Charon was the ferryman who took the souls of the dead by boat into the Underworld by crossing the River of Woe, Acheron.

But boats and death also feature in literature, especially poetry and there is the famous quotation by F Scott Fitzgerald:

‘So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.’ 

‘Crossing the Bar’ by  Alfred Lord Tennyson also features a sea voyage which will end in death,

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.

There is also The Ship of Death by D H Lawrence amongst others.

I said earlier that a boat or ship is an important Christian symbol due to the mast forming a cross. Also, the Latin for ‘nave’ ,the central aisle of a church,  means ‘ship’ and there are several Biblical references to boats and ships.  After all, Christ told his disciples to “follow me and I will make you fishers of men”.

But let’s not forget that a boat or ship can also indicate a love of sailing and freedom.

The epitaph beneath the boat – some of the letters are missing .
©Carole Tyrrell

Some of the letters on the epitaph beneath the boat and cross have worn away so I can only assume tha the name commemorated is Walter Ward M Cais but it seems incomplete. He died young at only 43 and his widow, Martha, married again and lived well into the 20th century. It must have been a message of comfort that Walter’s small boat was moored safely for eternity.

Full view of the boat and cross, Caig monument, Brompton Cemetery
©Carole Tyrrell

 

© Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated

References:

Stories in Stone, Douglas Keister, Gibbs Smith, 2004

https://stoneletters.com/blog/headstone-symbols-the-boat

https://allaboutheaven.org/symbols/boat/123

http://www.historyofpainters.com/boat_symbolism.htm

http://imagesinthemind.blogspot.com/2008/08/boat-symbol.html

 

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A wandering ghost and a memorial to a favourite deer – Crawford Priory, Cupar, Fife

Crawford Priory in ruin shared via Wiki Creative Commons
©David Kelly

On windy nights, the derelict and romantic ruin that is Crawford Priory is reputed to have a familiar visitor.  A wandering spirit walks through the estate which she once owned accompanied by a retinue of the per animals that she knew and loved.  This is the ghost of Lady Mary Lindsay Crawford who is rumoured to walk the grounds when the wind is high.

Is she keeping a watch on the crumbling building or her crypt which is a mile away.  Or does she see the Priory as it once was with its fine furnishings and decoration and a butler opening the front door to visitors as she, smiling,  descends the sweeping staircase to meet them?

Deep in the Fife countryside lies the shell of a derelict, once grand country house.  For over 25 years it has been abandoned to nature which is fast obscuring it from memory and the world.  Ivy and saplings have thrust their way through broken windows and doors and a fire in 1995 was the final indignity. In 1997 its current owner applied to have it demolished but it may just eventually fall down by itself.

The cawing of crows or the wind whistling around what’s left of the Gothic styled Crawford Priory are the only sounds that the casual visitor will hear now.

However, it was never actually a priory and no religious order ever lived there.  But the name went with the romantic Gothic touches such as the pointed windows and the battlements and so it became one.

Lady Mary’s crypt, Crawford Priory in sad decline
©British Listed Buildings

A mile away near Lady Mary’s Wood lies an equally ruinous crypt dedicated to the Priory’s creator and the last of her line, Lady Mary Lindsay Crawford. From urban explorers websites, the last great recorders and finders of the abandoned, the crypt is in no better state than the Priory.  Its door is now bricked up although a hole has been made in it and the crypt is falling in on itself. The pet cemetery is rumoured to be still there but I haven’t seen any photos of that while researching this article.

To add to the romance of the place there is also a belief that the pale wraith of Lady Mary drifts across the site as she gathers her pet animals around her.  She had the crypt built so that she would always have a good view of the Priory even in death.

I am indebted to a Facebook friend who lives in Scotland with her family. They like to go out and explore the local countryside and share their photos and adventures online.   They have been kind enough to give me permission to use their photos to illustrate this article.  Crawford Priory was a real gem as it’s the sort of place that I would like to explore myself.

Crawford Priory was originally merely a hunting lodge built by the Earl of Crawford in 1756 and then completely remodelled in the then  fashionable style in the early 1800’s. Lady Mary employed well known architects of the time to create it.  She died in 1833 and was known as a reclusive, religious woman. The pet cemetery was also created by her to remind her of her favourite animals.  They flocked to her and she was frequently attended by tame foxes, birds, dogs, cats and even a pet deer.  However, I have been unable to find any images of  Lady Mary but she must have been formidable as well as kind. There is a tombstone near the outer wall of the Priory dedicated to a pet deer which is what caught my attention and intrigued me enough to research further.

Lady Mary lived alone, except for her servants, and administered a large country estate as well as the Priory.  This included limestone kilns, coal mines and farms amongst other business interests.  This was remarkable in the 19th century for a woman alone.

This keen business sense and her managerial abilities led to Lady Mary being regarded as odd and her obituary, according to alex cochrane’s blog, considered her eccentricities as

‘lean’d to the virtue’s side for  the cause of humanity .’’

Also, according to adcochrane, a distant relative of the family, quotes from one of Lady Mary#s letters on his blog, in which she says:

‘this hall is raised under bad and awful auspices ‘

and then goes onto to describe how her dog:

‘howled in the most dreadful manner in the next room to the new building…yet in spite of its cries would not leave the dining-room’

It sounds like a page from a Gothic novel as the heroine eats her dinner at a candle-lit dining table while her dog howls and the wind picks up speed around the battlements.

Lady Mary left generous bequests to the local poor, friends, servants and her animals. The Priory then came into the possession of the Earls of Glasgow and the Cochranes   The photos on adcochrane’s blog and now in the possession of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (rcahms for short) reveal how lavishly decorated The Priory’s interior was:

The grand hall was magnificently decorated with fan vaulting and hanging pendants; suits of armour stood under canopied gothic niches; medieval style stained glass lit the hall. The drawing room and morning room opened off a rib vaulted chamber decorated with gargoyles, both with gothic fireplaces inlayed with coloured marbles. The principal staircase…was decorated with gilded armorial panels and armorial stained glass of the Earls of Glasgow.” adcochrane

ADcochrane also goes onto recall that

‘The grand bedroom was hung with panels of wallpaper depicting the life of Psyche from the ancient Latin story by Apuleius.’

He adds that in 1990 a lot of the internal decoration was still there but now it’s all gone.  Even the sweeping staircase has finally collapsed.  To see archive photos of the Priory in its glamorous heyday please visit his blog:

https://adcochrane.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/crawford-priory-riddle-of-a-ruin/

Eventually the Priory became just too expensive to maintain like many country houses.  They usually required a retinue of servants to maintain them and after the Second World War these were in short supply. Adcochrane adds that both his godfather and cousin remembered exploring huge unused rooms and clambering about dusty piles of trunks.

In the 1960’s the Prior needed an expensive and major restoration but this never happened.   No use has been found for it since and so it was left to lie empty until it fell into its current state.

If Lady Mary does walk in her wood and the Priory grounds then one hopes that she sees the Priory as it was and not how it is now.

© Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.

References

https://www.derelictplaces.co.uk/main/rural-sites/35632-crawford-priory-revisit-scotland-october-2017-a.html

Helen Grant FB page

http://www.derelictplaces.co.uk

 

 

It’s in front of you! The Chaldon Doom painting is on youtube

Happy 2020!

 

The Chaldon Doom – Pinterest

 

Welcome to a new year and a short piece on how part of one of my blog posts became part of a youtube film.

I have to say that, after a cursory glance,  that ‘Look it’s behind you! The Chaldon Doom painting’’is undoubtedly my most popular post with 4,205 views since it’s publication in 2018.   It was a post about what may the oldest wall painting in England which is on the back wall of the church of St Peter and St Paul in Chaldon, Surrey.  This is an out of the way place as there’s no real village there.  But the church is very picturesque and popular as a destination for walkers especialluy during the summer when there is cake and tea on sale on Sunday afternoons.

The actual title of the painting is the Purgatorial Ladder and was painted in order to instruct the congregation to live a righteous life. After death they were either destined for heaven or hell depending on if they had lived a righteous life. It’s an impressive piece and I did wonder how it might have felt when praying or listening to a sermon with the painting and its angels and demons behind you.

A man called,Richard Gandon from a film company called Eyedears contacted me last year as he’d created an animated explanation of the Chaldon Doom and posted it on youtube.  He asked for permission to use my introduction from my blog post on the painting with accreditation.  It is a short and accessible explanation of the painting’s elements such as the Seven Deadly Sins  and well worth a look at.

The link is: https://youtu.be/_lUW8ThhxL4

Let me or Richard know what you think!

© Text and photos Carole Tyrrell unless otherwise stated.